Article 4 – The Importance of Listening Skills for Your Preschool Child’s Learning and Development, By Dorinne S. Davis-Kalugin,President, Davis Centers, Inc.

dorinne_davisMost people know that hearing and speech are very important in a child’s development. What is as important is the skill of listening. Some people think hearing and listening are the same skill but they are not. Hearing is simply the physical act of receiving sound stimulation through the ear and sending it to the brain for reception. Listening, however, involves a mental process of tuning into a sound, recognizing its importance, and interpreting the information at the brain. For the developing child, both hearing and listening are important, since a child can have good hearing, and not have good listening skills.

The ability to detect a sound is hearing, and the ability to attach meaning to it is the foundation for development. This is listening. Sounds are not only speech sounds. Sounds are all around us. Before a child learns to produce speech sounds, they begin to respond to sounds in their environment—responding to their mother’s voice, or a dog barking, or a baby crying.

These sounds imprint their brain with rhythm, inflection, pitch, intensity changes and more. These sounds prepare the way for the ear to respond to incoming speech sounds.

The ear is also one’s balance and coordination center. Often, weak early motor skills suggest the possibility of future weak listening skills. The ear, through vibrational stimulation, also impacts all of one’s senses, either directly or indirectly, so poor listening skills often accompany children who have sensory integration or sensory processing issues. Sometimes, children are too sensitive to sound, or crave vestibular sensation like spinning, or enjoy more than normal, hugs or squeezes. These needs are all directly related to how sound stimulation is sent to the brain through the ear.

Listening skills become extremely important when the child enters a learning environment such as a preschool. They are equally important to their social development as they attend and participate in conversations. Listening to spoken language is an integral part of developing speech, language, and communication. A preschool child also enjoys listening to music, songs, and stories. Some children enjoy music but can’t listen to conversation for long periods of time. Other children can listen and attend only as long as a visual picture is also present like the television. Each of these children have different listening skills, some of which can have a negative response in a school environment.

Mastering listening skills include developing auditory perceptual skills such as auditory detection, discrimination, recognition, sequencing, and memory. The blend of these skills allow for vocabulary development, proper grammar skills, future reading skills, and the ability to listen in background noise. These skills, when weak, can be enhanced by repatterning how the ear responds to surrounding sounds. The best time to repattern these skills is during the preschool years, as the brain is still growing. This can be done with repetitive activities that exercise the specific weaknesses over a long period of time. Speech Pathologists help develop communication skills, also typically over a long period of time.

Another technique to retrain listening skills is known as the Tomatis Method®. This method, although developed over 50 years ago in Europe, is relatively new in the United States. It seeks to re-activate the processes of primitive listening by stimulating the ear using filtered music played through special equipment. By doing so, the ear has a chance to repattern itself so that listening can develop within more normal parameters with limited intervention. The basic Tomatis Method offers an intensive repatterning over a relatively short period of time. The children listen with headphones for 2 hours per day for 15 days, then take a 30 day break, and again listen for 2 hours per day for 15 days. The objective of the method is to obtain a unity between hearing, auditory processing, and the listening function, thereby helping the child reach their potential without reinforcing their listening difficulties. It also allows the gifted child, who may have difficulty listening in general, find more balance with their special skills, thereby reinforcing their potential.

As the child grows toward the magical Kindergarten age, listening becomes even more important to school success. Hearing the sounds within words, and the connected sounds for comprehension is important to success in reading. Early success with reading skills helps the child’s self-concept.

Listening is important overall. However, for the preschool child, good listening skills are essential in helping a child develop and reach their fullest potential. Attached is a checklist to help determine how your child listens. If indicated, there is help for enhancing listening skills. The Tomatis Method has helped thousands of children make positive changes with listening, learning, and developmental skills. Some children can benefit from this extra enhancement to help them achieve their maximum.

The Listening Checklist:

A Tool to See if Your Child May Have a Listening Problem

We cannot “see” listening. The only way to “get at it” is indirectly—through skills that are related to it in one way or another. This checklist, developed by Canadian Tomatis practitioner, Paul Madaule, reviews the abilities, skills or qualities that will enable you to assess whether you or your child may have a listening problem. There is NO score, but three or more checks may indicate listening or learning issues. The method developed by Dr. Alfred Tomatis helps develop listening skills that impact learning and life skills. For more information go to our website: or read the attached information.

Developmental History:

Our early years

This knowledge about our younger years is extremely important in early identification and prevention of listening problems. It also sheds light on possible causes of listening problems

* A stressful pregnancy
* Difficult birth
* Adoption
* Early separation from the mother
* Delay in motor development
* Delay in language development
* Recurring ear infections

Receptive Listening:

Our external environment

This type of listening is directed outward to the world around us. It keeps us attuned to what’s going on at home, at work, in the classroom or with friends.

* Short attention span
* Distractibility
* Over-sensitivity to sounds
* Misinterpretation of questions
* Confusion of similar-sounding words
* Frequent need for repetition
* Inability to follow sequential instructions

Expressive Listening:

Our internal atmosphere

This is the kind of listening that is directed within us. We use it to listen to ourselves and to gauge and control our voice when we speak and sing.

* Flat and monotonous voice
* Hesitant speech
* Weak vocabulary
* Poor sentence structure
* Overuse of stereotyped expressions
* Inability to sing in tune
* Confusion or reversal of letters
* Poor reading comprehension
* Poor reading aloud
* Poor spelling

Motor Skills:

Our physical abilities

The ear of the body (the vestibule), which controls balance, muscle and eye coordination and body image needs close scrutiny also.

* Poor posture
* Fidgety behavior
* Clumsy, uncoordinated movements
* Poor sense of rhythm
* Messy handwriting
* Hard time with organization, structure
* Confusion of left and rights
* Mixed dominance (of hands?)
* Poor sports skills

The Level of Energy:

Our fuel system

The ear acts like a dynamo (a powerful motor), providing us with the “brain” energy we need to not only to survive but also to lead fulfilling lives

* Difficulty getting up
* Tiredness at the end of the day
* Habit of procrastinating
* Hyperactivity
* Tendency toward depression
* Feeling overburdened with everyday task

Behavioral and Social Adjustment:

Our relationship skills

A listening difficulty is often related to these qualities of interacting with others.

* Low tolerance for frustration
* Poor self-confidence
* Poor self-image
* Shyness
* Difficulty making friends
* Tendency to withdraw or to avoid others
* Irritability
* Immaturity
* Low motivation, no interest in school/work
* Negative attitude toward school/work


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